Vietnam poverty reduction success fragile-W.Bank
HANOI - Vietnam's impressive gains in
cutting poverty in recent years will be at risk unless the
government implements urgent economic reforms, the World
Bank said in a major report.
An executive summary of the report, the bank's most
comprehensive on Vietnam poverty in five years, said Hanoi had
also yet to fully acknowledge how economic reforms would help
keep reducing poverty.
Between 30 to 45 percent of Vietnam's 79 million people were
living below the poverty line, said the summary, which was
obtained by Reuters late on Tuesday. A full 45 percent of all
rural dwellers lived in poverty, it added.
The summary, which covered the 1993-1998 period, gave no
details on how poverty was measured.
It said reduced poverty from gains in agriculture production and
productivity had largely been exhausted, which meant the best
way to raise future incomes was through off-farm employment in
rural areas and labour-intensive manufacturing.
But that required urgent economic reforms to create jobs and
bring foreign capital inflows into the communist-ruled country,
where annual per capita incomes are just above $300.
``There is currently too little recognition as to why the reform
measures are essential for restoring growth and reducing
poverty,'' said the summary.
``The dramatic gains in poverty reduction in Vietnam during the
last five years remain quite fragile.''
POVERTY LEVEL WAS 70 PERCENT IN MID-1980s
The report will be the key focal point for Vietnam's foreign
donors when they meet in Hanoi from December 14-15 for the
annual World Bank Consultative Group meeting.
At that gathering, donors will make fresh aid pledges and also
discuss Vietnam's sluggish economic reforms.
Hanoi has promised to unveil measures to boost the economy at
the next session of the National Assembly, which opens on
Thursday, but investors are not expecting substantial reforms.
The government has forecast economic growth this year at
4.7-5.0 percent from an estimated 5.8 percent in 1998.
Commending Vietnam for its efforts to raise incomes during the
1993-1998 period, the summary said that in the mid-1980s
seven out of every 10 Vietnamese lived in poverty.
At that time deadening central planning policies had driven the
economy into the ground. In 1986, the government adopted
market-oriented economic reforms.
But because many people were close to the poverty line in
1993, modest improvements had been sufficient to pull them
over. It followed that a relatively small deterioration could push
them below again, the summary said.
Specific problems cited by the summary were increasing
landlessness among the poor, especially in the Mekong Delta.
Reuters - November 16, 1999.